In the decades since Roe v. Wade, abortion activists have relied on the courts to strike down pro-life laws. Abortion on demand was legalized by the courts, and abortion activists have found the courts to be their biggest ally in blocking pro-life initiatives. Yet one pro-abortion author, fearful of pro-life gains in the judiciary, has now proposed enshrining abortion protections in federal law.
Lois Shepherd, whose piece in The Hill is called “A Federal Abortion Law Might Be Needed,” argues that Congress should pass abortion protections: “It may be time for a federal abortion law. This might seem like a fanciful idea at first, as we are accustomed to leadership from the margins rather than the center on the issue of abortion rights.”
While the author frames her idea as a noncontroversial initiative that all could support, in reality the argument is rooted in misinformation about Americans’ attitudes toward abortion.
False Claim: “But 6 out of 10 Americans support a legal right to abortion in all or most cases.”
Shepherd managed to cherry pick a poll that paints the American public as sympathetic to legalized abortion. Yet we know from far more detailed polling on the topic from February 2019 that 58% of Americans would place restrictions on almost all abortions.
This 58% number is comprised of 17% believing abortion should be illegal in all cases, 12% believing abortion should be legal only to save the life of the mother, and 29% believing abortion should be legal only for life of the mother, rape, and incest.
Another 22% of Americans believe abortion should only be legal in the first trimester. Taken together, these statistics mean that 80% of all Americans — an overwhelming majority — do not support “a legal right to abortion in all or most cases.”
False Claim: “Some will say that compromise is unprincipled. But we currently have a compromise—Roe was a compromise, Casey was a compromise. Neither decision made abortion solely a matter of a woman’s choice or allowed its complete ban.”
To call the state of legal abortion in our country the result of a “compromise” is to stretch the meaning of the word “compromise” beyond recognition.
Who “compromised” to make abortion legal in Roe v. Wade? Who “compromised” to keep it legal in Planned Parenthood v. Casey? In each case, the “compromise” in question was the result of five justices — the slightest of Supreme Court majorities — agreeing on the legal framework allowing the slaughter of the preborn in our country.
And this “compromise” that Shepherd lauds overturned and nullified the actual compromises of democratically-elected legislatures in states around the country, many of which had enacted pro-life protections for the preborn — a similar process that continues even today. In short, Shepherd’s claim here is not rooted in reality.
False Claim: “Everyone in America must know someone who has had an abortion and is probably relieved that their mother, sister, wife, daughter, or friend was able to secure a safe one.”
Quite simply, there is a lot wrong with this statement. Although the tragedy of abortion has indeed touched countless Americans, the argument that “everyone” in America is “relieved” that women have had a “safe” abortion is absurd.
The legalization of abortion, a violent procedure that is never medically necessary, is actively opposed by tens of millions of Americans, who understand that abortion is never “safe” and always results in at least the death of the baby, and sometimes also harms or kills the mother as well.
Many pro-life Americans also work tirelessly to provide their “mother, sister, wife, daughter, or friend” with truly compassionate alternatives to abortion. According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, as of the latest available data there were 2,752 pro-life pregnancy centers that in 2017 provided over two million people with free, life-affirming services provided by 67,400 volunteers including 7,500 medical professionals.
False Claim: “Against expectations, a bipartisan criminal reform bill was recently passed. We shouldn’t dismiss the possibility of a federal abortion protection law.”
The bipartisan consensus reached on the criminal reform bill is a far cry from any proposed federal abortion protection law. People of goodwill can disagree on the proper administration of justice pertaining to convicted criminals. But abortion is always an act of violence on an innocent life.
No matter how much abortion advocates ignore this basic reality, legalized abortion will always be controversial because it always involves an act of violence, and pro-lifers will never let this go. Instead of being a matter of prudential policy judgment, laws on abortion involve the most fundamental right to life of an innocent human being.
Ultimately, it is concerning to see ideas like Shepherd’s begin to emerge. With a pro-abortion Democrat majority in the House, and some potentially sympathetic Republicans in the closely divided Senate, this kind of initiative isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem — especially if a Democratic presidential candidate wins in 2020. Pro-lifers should prepare now to counter pro-abortion federal legislation before these types of arguments gain traction.
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